With a promise to make “every sip sublime,” a Wilton couple has created a line of barrel-aged, craft cocktails under the brand name, Barrelsmith.
Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, results from this year’s soft launch of the bottled, ready-to-drink cocktails have been encouraging, according to owners Martha Outlaw and Matt Ellenthal.
The couple (pictured in photo above) has lived in Wilton since 2004.
Far from a spontaneous creation, the cocktails have been years in the making, and influenced by a number of the couple’s life experiences.
Outlaw is certified as a wine and spirits educator and has significant work experience in the field. She says she brings the astute palate to the venture while Ellenthal brings more of the science.
Outlaw describes Ellenthal as a “perfectionist” and an avid learner when it comes to his interests. He also has experience with startup companies.
After developing a keen appreciation for wine, the couple began experimenting with cocktails enjoyed with friends and family.
But it was a purchase from Minks To Sinks that proved instrumental in the idea to try barrel-aging their cocktails. Outlaw told GMW that one year, on a whim, she picked up a vinegar aging barrel at the well-known charity tag sale; the barrel hadn’t been used before, but the couple decided to give it a try with their cocktails.
Some of their inspiration for barrel-aging also came from one of Ellenthal’s favorite bars, which had its own barrel-aging program.
The couple continued to experiment and purchased additional barrels to perfect their recipes. Not satisfied with commonly available ingredients, they searched for alternatives and even created their own vermouth and liqueurs to add to classic bourbon, rye and gin cocktails.
Eventually, and with some help from a flavor scientist, they settled on recipes and optimized the barrel-aging method for three cocktails: the Manhattan, Negroni and Boulevardier varieties.
Even though whiskeys and bourbons are traditionally aged in oak barrels, Outlaw recognizes there are some misperceptions about barrel-aging. “It’s not to add oak flavor,” she said, like some California chardonnays, for example.
Rather, Outlaw explained that barrel-aging a cocktail “softens it, blends it, gives it a more sophisticated flavor. It smoothes it.”
Outlaw also believes the quality of their ingredients, and not just barrel-aging, sets them apart from other bottled cocktails, which are often very sweet or overly flavored. She said, “[Barrelsmith cocktails] are just really good and not [made with ingredients] you can just get off the shelf.”
Additional varieties are in the pipeline. The company is working on cocktail recipes with vodka, tequila and rum in an effort to appeal to more consumers.
The brand is currently distributed in New York, New Jersey, California and Florida. Outlaw says they hope to have a national distributor next year, as well as more local availability. Currently, the brand is available at the Salem Wine and Liquor store, located on Route 35 in South Salem, NY, just a short distance across the Ridgefield border.
The brand is also available online through the ReserveBar website.